PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Just when Tim Beckham's time seemed near, his hopes to be with the Rays in 2014 went away after a freak slip.
"Just training; it was supposed to be my day off," Beckham said. "While doing a drill at the end of the workout, my tennis shoe hit the ground and I tried to cross over into a sprint. I was sprinting out of the drill and when my foot hit the ground, my foot slipped and my knee gave."
Initially, Beckham wasn't that concerned.
"There wasn't a big pop, which is why I didn't think it was that serious," Beckham said. "I went home and iced it and was taking care of it for a week, a week and a half. It was getting better day by day, so I didn't think it was this serious. I was walking, and running, doing everything on it, so I didn't think it was as big of an issue as it was. But I still felt discomfort after a week and a half, a couple of weeks. So I let the team know about it and went about it that way."
The diagnosis that followed revealed that Beckham tore the ACL of his right knee, which required surgery in December. Now the No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 Draft spends his days rehabbing under the care of the Rays training staff.
"A reconstruction normally takes six-to-eight months, and I think I'm on schedule right now," Beckham said. "Everything is going well. We're taking our time with it, but I'm definitely pushing it as well. So I'm looking forward to getting back as soon as possible and helping this team win some games."
Even injured, the always-upbeat Beckham has managed to catch manager Joe Maddon's attention.
"He's been really good," Maddon said. "Talking to the training staff, they're the ones who have been really impressed by his work. Because [head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield] came to me after the second day we were here and just wanted me to know how diligently that Beck's been working. So I made sure that I made a point to him. I think he's handled it as well as he possibly can."
Beckham hit .276 with four home runs and 51 RBIs at Triple-A Durham in 2013 before getting called up to the Major Leagues for the first time in September. On Sept. 19, he made his Major League debut and singled in his first plate appearance, becoming the first Rays player to get a hit in his first career plate appearance since Robinson Chirinos on July 18, 2011.
"Beckham really showed well at the end of the season when we threw him into some moments right there," Maddon said. "A lot of people did not expect a lot, and he handled it extremely well. Beyond the [physical aspect of] getting a base hit to win the game, whatever, the way he handled it emotionally, I'm so big on that. If you're going to play in Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, you better be emotionally in control of yourself."
In five games with the Rays, Beckham hit .429 with an RBI and a run scored. His 2013 season was also a nice rebound from a setback he brought on himself in '12 when he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for marijuana.
Beckham worked hard to put the suspension behind him and appeared perched on the brink of earning a spot with the team this season before his injury. He remains optimistic, despite the disappointment of not being able to compete for a Major League job in Spring Training.
"It's definitely one of the tougher pills I've had to swallow coming up through the Minor Leagues and through my career," Beckham said. "But what can I do about it? You play the cards you're dealt. I mean, I got hurt in the offseason doing extra stuff for the season. It's just an all-around bad situation. But you want to take the positives out of it.
"Of course nobody wants to get hurt. Everybody wants to be on the field to help their team win games and have fun doing it."
Being in Port Charlotte and rehabbing around the team seems to be having a medicinal effect on Beckham.
"Definitely does," Beckham said. "I have great teammates. They've been helping me keep my head up. They tell me to keep working as hard as I normally do, and that's how I'm going to attack the situation.
"I'm getting my knee brace in a couple of days and I'm going to start throwing as soon as it gets here; that's on the positive side of things. Kind of want to keep a positive outlook throughout this whole situation."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.